Wa-Hi advances four runners to state championship

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SPOKANE - Wa-Hi qualified three runners for next week's Class 4A state cross country championships here Saturday during the Greater Spokane League-Big Nine Regional Championships at Wandermere Golf Course.

J.P. Wolpert earned his second trip to state with a fourth-place finish in the boys 5,000 meter race. His time was 15:43.

Rachel Nelson and Hannah Hampson were sixth and 14th, respectively, in the girls 5,000. Nelson posted a time of 19:20 that resulted in the third state berth of her career and Hampson punched her first state ticket with a 19:48 mark.

"I'm excited for all three runners heading into next week as they should fair very well," Locati said. "J.P.'s race was as smart technically as you can get. He ran very controlled in the first mile - 15-20 seconds back from the lead pack and then ran a superb second half. By the time he reached the two-mile (mark), he was with the lead pack. The three (runners) that beat him are three of the best in the state. J.P. has a real shot at placing in the top 10 if he can run another race like (this) next week.

"Rachel ran one of the better races this season as she continues to get back to form," Locati said. "We knew all the races (boys and girls) would go out fast and we had to control the pace in the first mile and then move through the pack. Rachel did that very well, but also found herself running by herself much of the second half. Next week will be different as she will have more runners around her which will help to pull her through those late parts in the race.

"Hannah has been running very well," Locati said. "She is a gutsy runner and is not afraid to hurt. She has improved so much since last year. Her hard work in the off season paid off. Getting the experience at state this year will be incredibly important as it will set up these next couple of years for the team and for herself.

Also worthy of note, according to Locati, was the effort of Catherine Feistner, who placed 19th in the girls race, just four slots shy of state.

"Great runs by all four of our top finishers," Locati said. "We also had great efforts by several other runners, but the field was very strong and we were unable (as a team) to make it to state (on either the boys or girls side."

The favorites didn't disappoint, Locati said. Eisenhower's girls and boys took the No. 1 team spots to state. Wenatchee's boys placed second "as they lived up to their billing as the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the state," Locati said.

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